I felt obligated to write this article to let college students know what things to look out for when they graduate so they don’t get railroaded.
I will not waste your time with a long introduction, so without further ado, I present to you:
5 Things Every College Grad Should Know.
#1. A Degree Does NOT Entitle You to a Job
It’s amazing to hear recent college graduates get so worked up about not being able to find a job. Here’s their typical rant:
“I’ve worked my butt off at college. I studied every night. I got good grades. I graduated Magna Cum Laude. Why are there no jobs out there? This is a travesty! I worked my butt off and for what? So I can input data into spreadsheets at Initech? Nobody told me it would be like this. Everyone told me that if you have a degree, you’re set. What the %*%# is going on? Arrrgghhh!!!!”
First off, let me sincerely congratulate you for sticking to a major commitment and following through on it. I’m not trying to be sarcastic here. I sincerely congratulate you. I know it’s hard work and I feel for you because I know exactly what you went through.
Now here comes the tough love that you know is coming.
Just because you got a degree, it doesn’t entitle you to a six figure job, with full benefits, a one month paid vacation to a company retreat, 20 floating holidays, a corner office, and a parking spot in front of the doors with your name on it.
It’s time to get your head out of the sand.
The days where all you needed was a college degree to get a job are LONG GONE.
Deep down inside, you know it’s true.
We were all told the same lie in high school. Get into a prestigious university, get a degree, and your magic high paying job will fall squarely into your lap.
The smart people are the ones who have figured out this lie early on in college, and made sure the time they spent in school would separate them from the students who were still “asleep”.
You know exactly who these smart people are. They’re the ones who took the internships, the unpaid jobs, who made network contacts, and spent their days and nights gaining valuable working experience and marketable skills.
Think back to your graduation. Remember your fellow classmates graduating with you? They too got degrees. Now, think of the thousand other graduations across the nation that occurred in the same month.
They got degrees too.
What’s going to separate you from them? Why should employers hire you instead of all the other clones?
You must learn to differentiate yourself. What can you offer that these other people can’t?
It’s not enough to put your future in the hands of an educational institution. It’s time to stop blaming the world. It’s time to take personal responsibility and to have the courage to shape your future with your own hands.
#2. Find What You Love to Do
I should’ve put this at the very top, but I wanted to address the biggest issue facing recent college grads first (job entitlement).
Let’s look at the typical path of a college graduate who has not found what they love to do.
Graduated from college -> can’t find job -> get’s low paying “temporary” job just to pay the bills -> starts to become complacent and falls into routine -> struggles to get out of routine but can’t because of accumulation of debt to finance lifestyle of escaping reality and impressing people with material possessions -> effectively becomes a slave to the job as it is needed to pay the bills-> looks foward to weekend to complain about job but does nothing and gets wasted to forget troubles-> gets depressed -> struggles to find meaning in life -> maybe gets a small promotion at temporary job by employer as an incentive not to quit -> hates waking up in the morning everyday but does it anyway to pay the bills -> makes other people’s lives miserable because his is -> rinse and repeat for 40 years -> lies on deathbed regretting life, wishing he could go back and change it all, and dies knowing that he can’t.
The time you have after college is THE TIME to find what you love to do. You’re not burdened (I assume for the most part) with the heavy responsibilities of a mortgage, family, or dependents. You’ll most likely move back home or room with a buddy.
Use that time to find what you love to do. Don’t put it off. Otherwise, you may fall into the trap of getting a job just to get by and falling into a routine.
I’m not saying it’s bad to get a job just to get by, but if that’s all you’re doing, and if you don’t have a goal, plan, or passion, to shoot for, the future looks very bleak for you.
#3. Learn How to Interact With People
Learning how to interact with people is probably one of the most valuable skills you can have in your belt. This is a “street smart” skill. Sure there are books on this, but the only way you can develop this skill is by putting it into practice constantly until it becomes second nature.
This skill will come into play when you get your first job.
Learn to make a habit of greeting people with a smile. Say “thank you, please, and I appreciate it” whenever you have the chance. These small things make a huge difference. Don’t be so quick to dismiss the power of appreciation and courtesy.
Make small talk, get to know your co-workers, help them when they have a problem. Eat lunch with them. Talk about the TV shows you watch when you’re at the water cooler or about the cool blogs you visit on the net – hint hint
Learn to be positive. Make people smile when they see you coming your way.
You’ll find that the skill of comfortably interacting with people will help you when it comes time to promotion. This will also protect you from the next subject.
#4. Practice CYA (You Know, Cover Your – - -)
Office politics – yes, everything you’ve heard is true. Office politics DOES exist and it is NOT pretty.
When it comes to downsizing, I’ve seen employees turn on the quiet employee in the corner like a pack of wolves and whisper to the managers that he/she must go. It’s far easier to fire the loner than to fire one of the gang. That’s why you should learn how to interact with people.
When it comes to promotion with competition, work sabotage and trash talking behind the back are rampant and pretty much expected.
When it comes to personal differences between employees and managers, managers will look for the smallest excuse to fire their employees.
But even if you are the most charming employee ever, you should still CYA.
Keep ALL emails. Back them up. Have everything in writing. If a potential problem or situation comes up, document it as fully as you can. Don’t trust your memory. If someone accuses you of something so bad that it could cost you your job (I’ve seen it happen), then you can calmly pull out all the information you saved and effectively CYA. Not to mention, make the accuser look like a total idiot (I’ve seen that happen too and it is SWEET!)
#5. Build and Maintain A New Social Network
When you graduate, you’re not going to be surrounded by your classmates and dorm buddies 24/7. You’ll most likely be living with a roommate or living with your parents and the majority of your social contact will be at work, and I don’t think your workplace is going to be filled with 22 year olds.
The only people you’ll probably keep in touch with are your roommates and your frat buddies or any other close friends you made, but they will all be doing their own respective things in different places.
Building a social network is crucial. Studies have shown that having a strong social network leads to positive mental and physical health over the course of one’s life.
So start building your social network. Don’t just stay at home and play video games and expect friends to magically show up at your doorstep.
Go join Toastmasters. Go to the parties, bars, bookstores, and lounges but one quick point though. Don’t just go to these places just for the sake of making friends. Make sure you have a genuine interest in the subject of the place you’re going to.
For example, if you have no intention of learning how to give speeches, don’t go to Toastmasters just to make friends. You won’t have anything in common with them because the people there want to give speeches.
Go to places where you have a genuine interest and you’ll meet similar people there who share your interests, which is perfect fodder for friendships.
If you go to places where there are regular meetings, it’s even easier to make friends because you see the same people who hold the same interest as you on a continual basis. Ever wonder why it was easy to make friends at school? That’s why.
If you’re apprehensive about making friends with complete strangers, let me let you in on a little secret when it comes to people and their friends.
Most people are sick and tired of their friends. We’re creatures of habit. We hang out with the same people all the time, listen to the same stories, laugh at the same jokes, and complain about the same things.
Most people are bored out of their mind when it comes to their friends and they’ll welcome any type of change. That’s where you come in. So don’t have any fear of making friends. Save people from boredom and complacency by inserting yourself into their lives.
The biggest misconception is that everybody has all the friends they need and that they don’t need anymore. People will always need friends.
So go make friends at work. Play social sports like basketball or tennis or softball afterwards. You’ll find that people don’t have many opportunities to make friends after school, especially if they work 9-5. That ‘s why you see so many friendships made at work. After all, you are spending a whole lot of time there.
There will come a time when your social network will help you get through tough times and you’ll be extremely thankful that you spent the time to make it.
I’m sure there are other things that every college grad should know, but I feel that the 5 discussed here are some of the more important ones that should be made known.
So college grads: Take personal responsibility, find what you love to do, learn how to positively interact with people, always CYA, and build a strong social network. By doing these things, you’ll find it to be extremely beneficial and a worthwhile investment on your part when making your brand new start.